Bruxism Causes: Reasons Why You Grind Your Teeth

Do you ever wake up from a good night’s sleep with painful teeth and jaws? You’re probably grinding your teeth in your sleep and aren’t even aware of it. If this is the case, bruxism may be affecting your oral health. Constant grinding can damage tooth enamel and weaken jaw tissue.

Bruxism is a problem that affects nearly 8–10% of the population. It can also affect both children and adults. However, it is more common in people aged 25 to 44.

Here, we will discuss the causes of bruxism, so you’ll know what to keep an eye out for!

What is Bruxism?

what is bruxism (1)

Also known as teeth grinding, bruxism happens when you clench your upper jaw while grinding your lower set of teeth. Although it occurs most commonly during sleep (sleep bruxism or nocturnal bruxism), some people grind their teeth while awake (awake bruxism).

The majority of the time, people are entirely unaware that they are grinding their teeth while sleeping. In many cases, the problem is discovered by the partner with whom they share a bed and who is awakened by the grinding sounds in their sleep at night. It’s possible that parents can also hear it in their sleeping children. Teeth grinding can lead to significant problems with the teeth and jaw, requiring dental treatment to help reduce its impact.

What Causes Bruxism?

There are many potential causes of sleep and awake bruxism. They can be attributed to physical, psychological, genetic, and psychosocial factors. In older children or adults, it may be linked to daily stress. Whether or not it causes symptoms can depend on many things. These include:


It is a physical, physiological, or emotional component that results in body or mental stress and may contribute to the development of bruxism. Teeth clenching may be associated with a person’s mental state. Psychological factors like sadness, anxiety and emotional stress contribute to the onset and continuation of bruxism and its frequency and intensity. Since bruxism is an emotional response, those who tend to repress their displeasure and anger, have aggressive, competitive, rushed dispositions, and build up nervous tension are at an increased risk of grinding their teeth.

Lifestyle Habits

Many lifestyle choices can increase the cycle of bruxism, especially with psychoactive substances such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and caffeine.


A patient’s risk of getting sleep bruxism is doubled if they consume excessive amounts of alcohol. After a night of heavy drinking, bruxism tends to worsen. Having a glass or two of wine before going to bed may sound like an excellent idea, but in reality, alcohol has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns. When a patient has trouble sleeping, their muscles twitch, and their teeth grinding.

Tobacco Use

Smokers are three times more likely to suffer from bruxism-related symptoms than those who don’t use cigarettes.

Recreational Drugs

Ecstasy, cocaine, methamphetamine (meth), and heroin contain stimulants that cause bruxism. Ecstasy is the drug that raises the reddest flags when it comes to bruxism. One-third of individuals have bruxism as a side effect, which can continue for six to eight hours. Bruxism can be worsened by long-term usage of these medications, leading to severe attrition in a short period.


Caffeine consumption (six cups or more per day) raises the risk of bruxism. This includes soda, energy drinks, tea, and coffee. Caffeine has a half-life of six hours after it has been consumed. Caffeine is a stimulant that can promote muscle activity and cause frequent waking periods at night.

Dental Malocclusion

Certain individuals develop bruxism due to a misaligned bite or tooth loss. In addition to irritation in the mouth, grinding or clenching may be a result of it.

Growing Teeth

Bruxism is common in young children, with up to 40% of them experiencing it at some point in their lives, most commonly during their tooth growth. Due to the rapid growth of the teeth and jaw in childhood, bruxism usually resolves on its own without causing permanent damage.

Neurological Conditions

Huntington’s illness and Parkinson’s disease can cause bruxism by triggering movement during sleep.


Bruxism is a side effect that may occur with various medications, including some antidepressants and antipsychotics. According to a 2018 study (SSRIs), there is a connection between bruxism and selective serotonin reuptake medications.

Sleep Disorders

Snorers and those who suffer from sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are more likely to experience sleep bruxism, or teeth grinding, while asleep. OSA makes breathing difficult at night and contributes to tiredness as a result of disrupted sleep.


Bruxism may be caused by genetic factors. Teeth grinding is a hereditary trait that changes according to neurotransmitter levels. Family members may be impacted by elevated hormone levels or variants in specific genes. Morphisms have also been demonstrated to affect neurotransmitters such as serotonin (a common occurrence among those who report teeth grinding).

Why Is Bruxism Harmful?

why is bruxism harmful

In some situations, chronic teeth grinding can result in the fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth, depending on the severity of the condition. Teeth can be worn down to stumps as a result of continuous grinding. When one of these situations happens, it may be necessary to use bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures, or even complete dentures.

Excessive teeth grinding can not only cause tooth loss and damage to your teeth, but it can also harm your jaws, cause or worsen temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and alter the appearance of your face.

When to See Your Doctor for Bruxism

If you think you may be grinding your teeth, make an appointment with your dentist right away. Your dentist can diagnose you with bruxism by searching for unusual wear patches on your teeth as well as assessing any associated symptoms.

A dentist can also help you manage your bruxism and the symptoms that come with it, as well as repair and help prevent further damage to your teeth.

Also, make sure to inform your dentist if you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed below:

  • Headache
  • Sore jaw
  • Frequent toothaches
  • Facial pain
  • Teeth that are worn or cracked, as well as fillings
  • Loose teeth
  • Earache
  • Insomnia

It is essential to see your dentist as soon as you notice any of the above symptoms, as bruxism can hugely damage your oral health. Fortunately, bruxism is usually preventable or treatable.

Patients who suffer from bruxism find it challenging to diagnose themselves, primarily because they are unaware that they are grinding their teeth. As a result, dentists look for signs of tooth damage and ask the right questions to provide the best possible care for their patients.

Final Thoughts

If you’re grinding your teeth while sleeping or while awake, it could be a sign that there is a problem. A simple dental check-up can identify whether or not premature aging of the teeth has occurred due to bruxism and requires treatment right away to prevent long-term damage. Get the dentist’s help to save your teeth. If it’s left untreated, tooth grinding can wear down your teeth and cause persistent pain.

If you are concerned that you may have problems with your teeth grinding, Peel Dental Studio can provide you with a comprehensive evaluation. Our friendly team of oral health care professionals can tell you what the right plan of action is for you. Come and talk to us about your treatment options before things get worse. Call us today at 9535-4900 or book an appointment online!

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Peel Dental Studio

Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.